Jury Duty and the Last Judgment

Today I’m locked away for jury duty. Two hundred prospective jurors are not where we planned to be today.

We are here to affirm the innocence of people wrongfully accused. We are here to discern the guilt of those who have torn the threads of our web of community.

Our courts are part of an amazing system of justice, both in the entire scope of human history and even around the world today. Many places on our planet do not depend on a jury of one’s peers to determine cases as we do.

Few of us prospective jurors have legal training, but some of us will be saddled with the ultimate legal question: Did this person commit murder?

“Do any of you know the accused?” No. “Do any of you know me, the judge?” No. “Do any of you know the attorneys?” No.

It would have been a privilege to serve in this case, but I with many others asked to be excused. I said that I cannot not afford the weeks of time that the case may involve. It feels like a shallow excuse. Someone’s life hangs in the balance, but I just can’t afford to get involved. That thought will echo in my memory for a long time.

All of this brings me back to the thought of eternal judgment. At our Lenten Reflection last week, we considered Tintoretto’s painting The Last Judgment alongside Revelation 20-21. Tintoretto imagines people sliding and tumbling down from Christ into a murky, watery place of skulls.

I am blessed to know this Judge. I am grateful for the Judge who is perfectly just and perfectly loving. John’s Revelation can, however, send chills up and down the spine:

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’

“He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.’” (Revelation 21:5-8, NIV)

Later this afternoon I expect to walk out of these government buildings and perhaps never return again. If called to serve, which may still happen, I will discern truth the best I can. However, I was not at the scene of any of these wrongdoings. I do not know the mind or hearts of the accused. This justice system is all we have. It’s superb compared to what many people have faced.

But I am very glad that eternity will be declared in a better courtroom.


About Ben Unseth

Executive Director at Project Understanding (2014-2017), social service agency in Ventura, CA
This entry was posted in culture, public square, theology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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